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Toronto’s top five Korean restaurants

If your idea of Korean cuisine is the bi bim bap listed at the bottom of your local sushi joint’s menu, then these restaurants will blow your mind

Best Korean
No. 1
For fans of Korean comfort food willing to pay extra for slick, downtown decor, Swish by Han is a revelation. The seafood soon dubu is a spicy broth of tofu, shrimp, scallops, mussels and calamari. A raw quail’s egg adds buttery richness. 38 Wellington St. E., 647-343-0268.


No. 2
The north Toronto grilled-eel specialist Jang Uh Plus offers subtle tastes rather than Korean cuisine’s usual boldness. Its chili-zinged eel is crispy and fatty, and completely fun to eat when rolled in a perilla leaf with raw garlic and jalapeños. 9625 Yonge St., 647-258-1000.

No. 3
The cooks at Cho Dang Soon Tofu, a ridiculously cheap, homely mom-and-pop shop, make custardy tofu with unparalleled expertise. Stone-bowl stews are made with sweet kimchee broth and come with a raw egg you crack and stir in at the table. 5130 Dundas St. W., 416-234-1161.

No. 4
Tofu Village in Bloor Street’s Koreatown serves crisp, golden, glorious pajung (seafood pancakes) with bits of shrimp, octopus and scallion for bite. The chap chae, sesame oil–doused sweet-potato noodles, are perfect cold-weather sustenance. 681 Bloor St. W., 647-345-3836.

No. 5
Loungey Koko Share Bar is a pricier people-watching place with quality Japanese-inflected dishes. The roasted pork bossam—a lettuce wrap of meat in kimchee with tangy-salty condiments—pairs beautifully with a soju cocktail. 81 Yorkville Ave., 416-850-6135.

(Image: The soon dubu at Swish by Han, by John Cullen)

  • k_specialist

    Been to 4 of the 5.

    Only 1 should be on here. Why does Toronto Life generate these inauthentic “manchu wok” listings? Total misdirection…unless you’re a connoisseur of “chicken balls” type food. Yes I said balls.

  • alltogethernow

    You list two places with soon du bu but neglect to mention the most popular soon du bu restaurant in town. Bok Chang Dong at Bloor and Clinton. They also have a location uptown near Yonge and Finch.

    GO GET IT IN YOU.

  • Jerry

    What’s *your* list, k_specialist?

  • s

    Agree with K_specialist and alltogethernow… Toronto Life should be called Downtown Toronto Life. All their recommendations are so downtown-centric. When I read the title of the article, I thought, “for sure they will point to some locations in Northern parts of Toronto”…. NOPE! Too bad.

  • howisbabbyformed?

    Hmm…. well one of the picks is in Etobicoke and the other is in Richmond HIll. Hardly downtown.

  • booboo

    I’m Korean, I eat a lot of Korean, have eaten at lots of good Korean places including in Seoul, and I don’t have a huge problem with this list. It’s not downtown-centric, and at least for 4 of these places (haven’t been to Koko) they are not unauthentic and hardly the chicken-balls kind of offering. Swish by Han may be more modern and less traditional, but I still like the place despite its service inconsistencies. Favourite is Cho Dang Soon Tofu.

  • JT

    Being new to Toronto and unfamiliar with Korean food I just want to know…what is that called in the photo and where can I get it? Looks amazing!

  • booboo

    That’s a version of soon tofu, which is a hot pot stew with soft tofu. The stew comes served to your table in the stone bowl it was cooked in, with a spicy broth (intensity can be adjusted), soft silken tofu, veggies, and either small amounts of shellfish or beef (they can often omit this though). When it comes to your table bubbling hot, they give you an egg to crack into the stew so it cooks in the soup. Cho Dang Tofu in Etobicoke does this best, but I also like Bok Chang Dong Tofu in Korea Town (Bloor and Manning).

  • LAV

    These picks are a little odd to me as well. I find myself clicking on Toronto Life’s lists of the top eats/shops to squeeze in a laugh. rather than naming these pieces as “The Best…” articles like this would more aptly be titled “5 Korean Places…:

    “…my friends told me about recently.”
    “…I found out about while shopping for a romper (but have yet to try).”

    I don’t know. We need more comprehensive reports and better writing again at Toronto Life. The one on Fried Chicken a while back was great–it was informative and more in depth (actual pics, prices, descriptions of recipe). If I were a tourist who’d never been to TO before and picked Koko Share Bar for the “people-watching”, I’d be disappointed to find out that it’s in a basement (and so doesn’t offer the kind of people-watching that a Cafe Nervosa would offer).

    TL has resorted to using stock-phrases and cliches to paint its different and varied areas into corners. I miss the old TL!

  • dobu_heart

    I’m native Korean and have eaten almost all the Toronto korean restaurants since I’ve moved here. I agree with kspecialist…this is not that good of a list.

  • veggie

    is the broth for soon tofu meat-based? or can vegetarians also partake?

  • intense palette

    Clicked on this article with great interest & I think this is really good list! Swish by Han and Koko are fantastic, authentic, & quality driven places with owners who take pride in Korean cuisine. I travel back and forth to Seoul for business & most Korean restaurants in Toronto are stuck in time. Coupled with lacklustre produce sourcing and (embarrassingly) bad service, most Korean restaurants in Toronto fall way below “acceptable” range. Sad to say seems most patrons are in no place to pass judgement on what’s good based on comments above. Perhaps it’s worth noting that both Swish & koko are recent transplants from Seoul to Canada. Does anyone else miss the “old” San? Where are you Monica Chang!!

  • korean

    Sariwon is by far the best Korean restaurant in the GTA (and probably the closest to Seoul you’ll ever get), followed by Seoul House (either Dufferin or Yonge/Steeles version).

    Of course, as Koreans themselves wouldn’t rely upon a Toronto Life list to decide where to dine, my guess is that the list itself wasn’t geared towards those who eat Korean on a regular basis. ;)

  • booboo

    No one is every going to agree with “Best Restaurant” lists and I said before that I don’t have a huge problem with the list because the places listed, that I’ve been to, are decent enough. And you’re really not going to bump into a lot of these restaurants while shopping for a romper; Cho Dang Tofu is not anywhere near a decent shopping neighbourhood and I only know about it because my (Korean) parents live in the neighbourhood and frequent the place. And the soon tofu broth is most likely not vegetarian. It is often either made with seafood or beef broth.

  • a savvy korean gal

    MIga in Missisauga is still my favourite! Little pricier than other place but I think you pay for what you get.

  • a savvy korean gal

    Miga in Missisauga is still my favourite! A little pricier than other place but I think you pay for what you get.

  • Danny

    Agree with LAV. should remove top 5 Korean restaurants. Swish and Koko are great places downtown which I would personally recommend to anyone as I have eaten at both establishments many times. However the food is more of a fusion of different influences. That being said you can’t discount their focus on pushing Korean food to another level.

    The problem with grouping Korean food in one umbrella category is a big issue. Great Korean restaurant establishments in NYC, LA and Korea itself only specialize in one or two things. Therefore you would go to one place for Soon Tofu and another for grilled meat.

    Korean food downtown is not very good as most businesses in Christie are bars because they make more money. Great for cheap booze though…

    Besides coming to my house for Korean food, I recommend two places for Korean. Seoul House near Yorkdale (there are 3 locations in the GTA)is great because it’s been around for years and that’s where most established Korean families go. the second is called Jung Soo Neh which is located just north of Finch Station. It’s really ghetto but they do the closest to home-cooked Korean food.

    Hope you like my post. Being Korean I just want to put Korean food in the best possible light. If you have any questions I’m more than happy to respond.

    Thanks,

    P.S
    Check out these rising Korean Chefs
    Rachel Yang
    Corey Lee

    intense palette: I’ve talked to Leeto and they’re actually from Philly.

  • from oakville

    MIGA??? You are joking. That is Korean food when you are desperate and live in the area. I agree overpriced and you have to add, caters to the amateur Korean foodie who doesn’t know any better.

  • jdot

    this list is hogwash!im glad the true #1 best Korean Restaurant ‘Sunrise House’ didnt make this sad list.

  • John

    Interestingly as a korean I do not agree with this list at all. It seems this list basically picked up on restaurants who cater to Canadian clientele with food that has been changed or tainted to suit the fatsos in North America. I just checked the yelp top five in Toronto and funny enough ip there top five list is also my top five list but in slightly different order. Goes to show that a meta review like rottentomatoes is more of the truth than one non expert’s list. The only change I would make to yelps top five is I would put Arisu in number one position and not number five. Arisu is top service with amazing food for a pretty resonance price. I noticed they use aaa beef and even have Kobe options.

  • http://twitter.com/tinasyhsu Tina Hsu

    I wrote a review about a Korean pojangmacha called 칠성포차 “7- star pocha” . There’s lots of Japanese izakayas, but I don’t see any Korean izakayas.. so if interested in!! It’s at Yonge-Wellesley ! http://wp.me/p2NGKq-Dr

  • Wayne Kim

    I do not agree with these list…. some one should really do a proper list so people who read this will not get mislead. I am starting question all reviews…

  • Meg Aquino

    Fully agree since I’ve dined there thrice last year!

 

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